The Invitation to Courageous Living
Fifty one days into 2017 and, already, this year has proven itself as a great beast to slay. I'm sure it doesn't come as a surprise to anyone, since the last time I wrote anything was in the previous calendar year.
A couple of months ago, towards the end of 2016, I was having lunch with one of my closest friends. Over a yummy bowl of soba, I asked him for his input on a word that he thinks I need for the new year. I was planning on getting myself a Giving Keys necklace, and I needed some inspiration for its inscription. My friend mentioned that the word that he thinks I need the most is courage. If some random person off the street came up to me suggesting that the word I needed was "courage", I would have taken offense at being called a chicken and punched him in the nose. I'm guessing it was a good thing that this came from the mouth of a loyal friend, a trustworthy confidante.
Boy, was he on to something.
In the last quarter of 2016, I was given a new responsibility at work. It wasn't anything I was seeking or was planning for. When I first heard the news, I did something quite unlike me. I panicked. It was as if I was stuck in a place where the walls kept closing in. (I might have watched too many spy movies. Or just that one scene from Star Wars.) I felt like hyperventilating. Scratch that. I was hyperventilating.
Through it all, God held my hand and helped me calm my breathing. I entered 2017 feeling hopeful and optimistic. And then the storm hits.
I won't delve into details of what's going on in the ministry or in my personal life (even as I share with the world, gotta respect my privacy), but I found myself having to try and stand firm even with the wind, thunder, lightning, and cold around me.
(Uhh, yes. I do speak in metaphors.)
I find myself in the position of having to lead others to be strong in their faith. I think in the last month or so, I have found myself in positions where I am prompted to encourage, speak faith into being, cheer people on. All about having faith. But, in all honesty, at the end of the day I come home and get under the covers and have a mini meltdown. Or a full-blown emotional break.
I kept asking God, "Why, Lord? Why me? Why can't it be someone else? I was comfortable, but now you've put me in a place where I'll sink or swim, but I feel like I'm sinking! Why me?"
In my years of living life with God, I have noticed that God rarely ever answers why questions. He answers how questions and when questions and what questions and who questions, but he rarely ever answer why questions. To my surprise, this time God answered my why question. Loud and clear, and quite expedient too. It wasn't an audible voice; if it was, I would have had a heart attack. But it was crystal clear. At that moment, I knew it was God, and I knew it was my answer, and I was floored by it.
"Daughter," he said. "You have come to this position for such a time as this."
That revelation completely changed my outlook. It also instilled in me a sense of purpose. I feel not unlike the characters I often watch from the comfort of my living room: an individual entrusted with an important mission.
As I look back, I saw that the Lord has guided me and prepared me for this storm. I am able to have faith and encourage others to have faith only because of him. It started with the word, courage. But it didn't end there. God knew that I needed more than a word to get me through the storm.
At the beginning of the year, God placed in my heart that the theme for our teens ministry needed to be Heroes: A Called Generation. The first message I preached to the teens this year came from the Book of Esther.
Not long after that, my senior pastor preached on Overcoming Fear. God continued to remind me with countless of references from the book of Joshua, "Be strong and courageous" (Joshua 1:9). In Deuteronomy, Moses reminded the Israelites and Joshua to be strong and courageous (Deuteronomy 31:6-8). David said to Solomon to be strong and courageous and to do the work (1 Chronicles 28:20). Every single week in my personal time with the Lord or in different communities, the message was loud and clear: have courage!
So here I am.
What have I learned so far?
- God does answer prayers.
- My emotions might be all over the place, but that doesn't mean that God has abandoned me. Just because I feel a certain way, doesn't make it true. (Please refer to one of my favorite quotes - by me: "Just because you feel like a giraffe doesn't make you a giraffe.") In fact, God is always with me. He is Immanuel. It's in his nature to be present!
- Friends who pray for you, who give you apt words to cling to, who make you laugh when you feel like crying, and who talks faith into you when you're being insane are the best! We are wired to live in community because we are stronger together.
- When I'm unstable emotionally and spiritually (and quite possible mentally), the best thing to do is to immerse in the Word of God. Strength is built by ingesting the Truth, not anxiety or worries.
- God is in control. He has overcome the world! So take courage!
Psalm 27:14 says, "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."
Often times we think that strength happens in action. We are strong when we are doing something. We never think of waiting as something that produces strength. But the Bible says that waiting on the Lord gives us strength. It produces, tests, and perfects our strength.
Also, I have found that the Bible often talks in this sense: for us to take courage or for us to take heart. I'm not doing a word study and delve so much into the Greek or Hebrew texts, but I just find it interesting that courage is for the taking. That God provides the strength and the courage we need. He offers them to us. All we need to do is take it.
So take the courage you need to weather the storm!